(The first of a 2 part series on this topic. It is something my students always want to talk about, and it is something that we as the church tend to avoid or not talk about very often. So let’s break the silence in a loving and humble way. I WELCOME your feedback and discussion and I do not claim to have it all figured out. Please extend me grace as I simply want to start a loving discussion)
Let me start by saying, that MY HEART BREAKS, when I hear the hurts and divides between the LGBTQ community and the church. In fact, as I’m sitting here writing this, thinking about what I’m going to write, my chest is aching at the brokenness of this relationship. For several years, I have been praying about and wrestling through how we can begin to reach the LGBTQ population of our country (specifically the homosexual community), who have felt ostracized and isolated from the church. It is absolutely the most difficult issue of our current church culture.
Things all started to hit home for me, when I began to put myself in other people’s shoes. So for instance:
If I were a parent of a student, who all of the sudden came out to me as gay, and the next day I go to church… who exactly am I going to talk to about this? Who is going to be a safe place for me? Am I going to be judged as being a bad or failed parent? Am I going to get kicked out of my church if I don’t respond the way “they” want me to? Is my KID going to be safe in this church community with this struggle? Will he/she be met with love and acceptance? Will he/she ever want to go to church again?
OR what if…
If I were that gay student? Would I be able to talk about this topic that is a huge part of my life without being attacked? Would I be told that I am nasty and am going to hell? Is there person who has gone through this that I could go talk to and seek mentorship from at my church?
If I were in those shoes, the CHURCH is the one place I would want to know, that without a doubt, I could go to receive guidance, love, grace, and acceptance. The church should be the one place, that when someone walks through those doors, they know that every single time they will have family who loves you, no matter what’s going on in your life. Whether you’re battling alcoholism, struggling through a divorce, are trapped in pornography, or trying to figure out your identity.
When I talk about “the church”, I’m talking about myself too… because I have to confess, I haven’t always been that type of a welcoming person. I have certainly tried to be, but just like most everyone else in the church, I’ve made some mistakes along the way that I wish I could go back and do over. I have had judgmental attitudes towards people who 1) weren’t Christians, and 2) had struggles that I didn’t understand. Where was the acceptance and forgiveness that was first extended to me by Christ “while I was still a sinner”? Thank God for his grace and mercy. Thank God that he’s a God of second chances… and 3rd & 4th & 5th chances. Thank God that he extended ME grace and forgiveness.
If you haven’t noticed yet, this post isn’t directed at the LGBTQ community. It’s directed at the church. At myself. At you. You see we are failing this community! The tactics of, “let’s abolish gay people from our church in order that they will see their sin and change” has not worked; is not working; and I doubt it will magically start working in the future. We, the church, have been unsuccessful at reaching out to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. You know, those other sons and daughters of God who have different struggles than most of us. If you don’t believe me, just look around your church. How many gay men and women are in your church? … Probably not a lot. Transgender? Bi-Sexual? Maybe there are a few in your student ministry, and that’s about it. Now look again. How many people do you see who have fallen short of the glory of God? I see a lot.
You see, there is a hypocrisy here, and we need to own it. For there are people in our church with struggles and sins, yet we are praying for them, encouraging them, and loving them like family. We aren’t throwing these battles in their face every time we see them. We aren’t telling them they are going to hell. Let me name a few examples:
- The prideful person in our church, who’s sin is destroying their relationships, and causing all that’s good in their life to fall apart.
- The lover of money, who has dedicated way too many hours to their business and asset growth. This sin is described as the root of all evil in scripture… yet we don’t ostracize them.
- The worrier who is consumed with everything in their world
- The men and women who are divorced multiple times.
- The promiscuous men and women.
- The alcoholics.
- The verbally abusive.
- The porn addict.
You see, there is sin, rampant in our churches today. Unrepentant sin. Sin that we are aware of, yet do not change. Yet these people are not kicked out of our churches. These people are not ostracized. They are loved and are handled patiently with the hope that God will redeem and restore them.
Do you see the hypocrisy?
The biggest kicker of all is the fact that being “gay” actually isn’t a sin. (Whoa, you lost me there Jake…) Just follow me for a second. You see the Bible never condemns gay people. The Bible only condemns homosexual acts. Go look it up… For you can be “gay” and have the temptation to commit a homosexual act, yet resist that temptation and remain pure. Can you not? If temptation is a sin, then Jesus was a sinner, and that would be blasphemy. Could we not have gay men and women in our church who are not sinful sexually? I’m honestly asking, and if you could help me out here, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
However, all of this division is happening at a cost to both the church and this community. There ARE men and women who God created with specific gifts that the church needs, and we as a church have isolated all of these people and told them they aren’t welcome here until they stop being who they are. Since when did Christ die for the men and women who have it all right?
You see, I believe that God created all men and women exactly the way he intended to. If you are gay and reading this, I want to say to you, that I don’t believe God made a mistake when it came to you! He knit you together in your mother’s womb, and gave you unique gifts to be used to glorify him. And while I am firm in my interpretation of scripture that homosexual actions are sinful, I also believe, that Christ is calling you to discover your identity in him. He doesn’t want your identity to be defined by your sexuality, he wants your identity to be defined by him. So, I want to open that door for you! And I 100% believe, that if you give your life to him, denying yourself to follow him, then God will lead you into the truth about why he created you the way he did. I believe God wants to use the unique gifts he gave you to bless the church and reach the lost. I don’t think you were created wrong. I believe that God wants to show you who you really are and that He has great plans for you, AND THE CHURCH, if you will follow Him.
And we, the rest of the church, need to recognize these people as God’s children, and start creating a place for them in our churches. Creating a place for them to be able to use their gifts in the church! How do we do this? What does that look like? We can only find that solution when we open up the lines of communication about this topic. And we will never communicate effectively unless we begin reaching out to the LGBTQ community to form relationships. It is time that we started treating this community as if they were our own sons and daughters…. as if they were God’s sons and daughters. It’s time that we started treating them as people who we will NEVER give up on; who have our unconditional love. And even if there are mistakes being made in their lives, NOTHING can separate them from our love for them, because that is how God loves us.
And maybe… just maybe, the Holy Spirit is finally going to be able to start working some stuff out! Maybe, the Spirit will start showing us how we can be a church without walls to the LGBTQ community. And maybe, just maybe, the Holy Spirit will finally have the avenue to speak truth into our LGBTQ brothers and sisters THROUGH US, as well as speak truth into the church THROUGH them.
I obviously don’t have all the answers, but it’s about time we start having these conversations.